Firefly Rewatch Episode 14: Spaced Out

“And if wishes were horses, we’d all be eatin’ steak.” – Jayne Cobb

Oh how I wish Firefly had lasted at least a few more episodes, thought I suppose I can be glad it went out at the top of its game.  But Objects in Space is an example of why just about any Joss Whedon show will at least get a season with me no matter what.  Potential.  Whedon isn’t afraid to go dark, or bizarre at times.  And he trusts his audience to give him enough latitude to give them something different.  Objects In Space is different, after the jump.

In a way this episode was overdue.  Part of the premise of the original pilot was that River and Simon’s presence on Serenity was the last thing Mal needed, but he allowed it anyway, maybe as a sort of redemption.  He wouldn’t take away the last hope of two innocents.  It was always inevitable that bad people doing bad things would track down River and Simon and that the crew of Serenity would have to save them or lose them.  They spent some time setting it up, two by two, hands of blue, but never fully got the chance to explore it before cancellation.  This was as close as they got.  But what they got is something very different.

River understands but doesn’t comprehend, and she’s referring to herself in the third person again.  We see some of what causes River’s confusion.  She sees what people say and what they think simultaneously.  The two don’t always match, and in a few cases, Book and her brother, the contrast is jarring.  It seems to mess with her perceptions, seeing the dark everyone hides and understanding at some level things aren’t really what they appear to be.  She feels waves of emotion she can’t escape or control, and Serenity is starting to feel too crowded for her.  But then there’s something simple.  An inanimate object, with no other side to it, no hidden meaning.  To river’s mind a gun must seem simple, comforting, almost innocent compared to the people around her.  She ponders it.  How is it so different than a stick?  She understands it is, but doesn’t comprehend why.  It’s just an object in space, devoid of purpose as a twig separated from a tree when it lays on the ground.

And then there’s Jubal Early.  The disturbed, and perhaps somewhat like River bounty hunter has been tracking Serenity for some time.  He certainly seems to know a lot about all of the crew.  He certainly knows how to frighten Kaylee and apparently knows something more about Book than we do.  Whether he represents another side of River, a potential for River’s future, or the Alliances plans for River we’re never quite sure.  What he does do is offer both us and River a glimpse of real darkness.

If you’ve followed Alan Sepinwall’s reviews this summer you’ll see that this is one of the episodes where he really feels that hearing the commentary and seeing the writer’s ideas play out on the screen is very worthwhile.  I haven’t done that yet, but plan to.  If for no other reason than to wrap my mind around all the various interpretations and possibilities.  In the end though art of this sort is a very personal experience.  I saw it as a transition for River and the crew.

It’s hard to fully understand this episode other than to note that Early causes a change in River.  Perhaps she understands her innocent and sometimes confused actions or good intentions come off differently to the crew.  Perhaps she now has the context to understand why the crew seem like two people at once.  And Early’s seeming nonsequitors offer an interesting, if sometimes confusing running commentary.  Certain things just don’t seem right to him, but they are reality and he can’t change them, only ponder.  The gun River holds is no more than an object to her as she seems to ponder the difference between it and a stick, yet Early imbues his gun with a purpose.  Yet at some point River reverses that and “becomes” Serenity.  She sees herself as part of the ship, part of a functioning thing imbued with purpose, not just an object in space.  And Early, he becomes an object in space.

Different.

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About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
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11 Responses to Firefly Rewatch Episode 14: Spaced Out

  1. atcdave says:

    There were certainly some interesting aspects to this episode. The darkness that was Jubal Early (sorry, as a bit of a Civil War buff its hard for me to use that name in this context) forces River to interact in the real world in way she only rarely has before. As far as that goes, this was a very important episode. Yet overall, it was dark in a way I don’t enjoy watching. When I do re-watches I usually stop at 1.13, then skip to the movie.

  2. jason says:

    ernie – is that it or are you doing the movie also? Thanks for doing this series of reviews, I loved it. One of my favorite story arc of the entire season was river as serenity, she seemed almost too cured, but it is tv, who cares, still liked it. Early was as confusing a character as river to be sure, don’t know if I recall someone quite like him on tv. But again, why pistol whip irina, why have that scene with kaylee have to be so vile – I really understand why this show got cancelled, with so little effort and a little common sense, I think it plays to the general viewing audience pretty well, but seems like each episode they have to write something somewhat inconsequential in, to make the show ‘foul’.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Thanks for your comments and your thanks.

      I understand what you mean about Whedon’s going dark or crossing certain lines a lot of people don’t like. The Dollhouse was basically about a very fancy whorehouse for much of the first season. I still plan to watch the second season at some point, but he lost me when he cast Alan Tudyk as the big badass of the series. I mean I know he’s loyal to his troupe but come on…

      You know now that I’ve been through the series again I want to watch the movie, and may do it this weekend. Not sure if I’ll be able to write about it in a timely manner, but I’m going to try.

      One thing I learned from my summer projects is that I don’t have as much time as I think for TV and writing. Even if it is summer. 😉

      So next summer The OC, right?

      • Crumby says:

        I saw Dollhouse before Firefly so I had no problem with Alan Tudyk being the big bad. He completely sold it to me in Dollhouse.

        I enjoyed Season 2 more because it seems like it was going somewhere. Season 1 seemed more like a series of stand alone episodes.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I do plan on renting season 2 at some point. It’s just like Whedon to find his groove and get things working well just as he’s canceled.

  3. OldDarth says:

    Love the episode. Jubal Early plays a lot like the Operative from the movie.

    Saddest thing about the series wasonly getting these early, but abruptly cut short, glimpses into River’s inner conflicts.

    The love between River and Simon is one of my favorite things about the series.

  4. Ernie Davis says:

    Just a quick PSA. If you haven’t picked up a copy of Firefly on Blu-Ray it’s on sale at Amazon.com at a great price right now. (9/12/2010)

  5. joe says:

    Today, 12-Sept, Glenn Reynolds, The Instapundit, has on his blog that Amazon is having a one-day sale on The Firefox Firefly Blu-Ray DVDs (Thanks, Dave!).

    Hurry Hurry Hurry!!!

    [Updated: Dang! That Ernie guy is quick!]

  6. Crumby says:

    That episode was unique. Whedon knows how to do different and interesting. I love that!

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